King James Version
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
English Standard Version
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
New International Version
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 Commentary
Jesus Christ came to save us by pardoning us, so we won’t die by the sentence of God’s law that kicks in the moment we sin (no matter how small we think the sin). Here’s the good news indeed, the best that ever came from heaven to earth. John 3:16 is much, its everything in just a little, John 3:16 is the word of reconciliation in miniature.
Here is God’s love in giving his Son for the world, where we have three things:
1. The great gospel mystery revealed: God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son. The love of God the Father is the origin of our regeneration by the Spirit and our reconciliation by the lifting up of the Son. Jesus Christ is the only-begotten Son of God. This magnifies his love in giving him for us, in giving him to us; we now know that he loves us, when he has given his only-begotten Son for us, which expresses not only his dignity in himself, but his dearness to his Father; he was always his delight.
In order to establish the redemption and salvation of man, it pleased God to give his only-begotten Son. He not only sent him into the world with full and ample power to negotiate a peace between heaven and earth, but he gave him, that is, he gave him up to suffer and die for us, as the great propitiation or expiatory sacrifice. It comes in here as a reason why he must be lifted up; for so it was determined and designed by the Father, who gave him for this purpose, and gave him a body in order to it. His enemies couldn’t have taken him if his Father hadn’t given him. Though he wasn’t yet crucified, yet in the determinate counsel of God he was given up, (Acts 2:23). Furthermore, God has given him, that is, he has made an offer of him, to all, and given him to all true believers, to all the intents and purposes of the new covenant. He has given him to be our prophet, a witness to the people, the high priest of our profession, to be our peace, to be head of the church and head over all things to the church, to be to us all we need.
In John 3:16 God has commended his love to the world: God so loved the world, so really, so richly. Now his creatures can see that he loves them, and wishes them well. He so loved the world of fallen man as he did not love that of fallen angels; see Rom. 5:8; 1 Jn. 4:10. Understand, and wonder, that the great God should love such a worthless world! That the holy God should love such a wicked world with a love of good will, when he couldn’t look upon it with any complacency. This was a time of love indeed, Eze. 16:6, 8. The Jews vainly conceited that the Messiah should be sent only in love to their nation, and to advance them upon the ruins of their neighbours; but Christ tells them that he came in love to the whole world, Gentiles as well as Jews, 1 Jn. 2:2. Though many of the world of mankind perish, yet God’s giving his only-begotten Son was an instance of his love to the whole world, because through him there’s a general offer of life and salvation made to all. It is love to the revolted rebellious province to issue out a proclamation of pardon and indemnity to all that will come in, plead it upon their knees, and return to their allegiance. So far God loved the apostate lapsed world that he sent his Son with this fair proposal, that whosoever believes in him, one or other, shall not perish. Salvation has been of the Jews, but now Christ is known as salvation to the ends of the earth, a common salvation.
2. Here is the great gospel duty, and that is to believe in Jesus Christ (Whom God has thus given, given for us, given to us), to accept the gift, and answer the intention of the giver. We must yield an unfeigned assent and consent to the record God has given in his word concerning his Son. God having given him to us to be our prophet, priest, and king, we must give up ourselves to be ruled, and taught, and saved by him.
3. Here is the great gospel benefit: That whosoever believes in Christ shall not perish. This he had said before, and here repeats it. It is the unspeakable happiness of all true believers, for which they are eternally indebted to Christ, (1.) That they’re saved from the miseries of hell, delivered from going down to the pit; they won’t perish. God has taken away their sin, they won’t die; a pardon is purchased, and so the attainder is reversed. (2.) They are entitled to the joys of heaven: they’ll have everlasting life. The convicted traitor is not only pardoned, but preferred, and made a favorite, and treated as one whom the King of kings delights to honor.
Commentary, Copyright © 2017 Steve Howells, All Rights Reserved. Paraphrased from Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (pp. 1930–1931). Peabody: Hendrickson.